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NBC downsizes ‘Tonight Show’

Jay Leno takes pay cut amid pinkslips for two dozen staffers

NBC has implemented a downsizing at “The Tonight Show” that includes layoffs of about two dozen staffers and a pay cut for host Jay Leno.

Sources said Leno took a sizable cut from — trimming his annual paycheck to around $20 million from nearly $30 million — in order to avoid deeper staff cuts. News of the “Tonight Show” restructuring was first reported by Deadline.

The Los Angeles Times noted that a key reason behind the cuts was the fact that “Tonight” was being produced for the same budget that was allocated to the ill-fated “Jay Leno Show” primetime hour in the 2009-10 season. The overhaul will bring the show’s weekly budget down to about $1.7 million per week, from upwards of $2 million, the Times reported.

Leno’s pay cut is not unprecedented. David Letterman took a haircut in 2009 when he set a three-year contract with CBS that reduced the license fee that the Eye pays for “The Late Show with David Letterman.” Unlike Letterman, however, Leno does not own “Tonight.”

NBC declined to comment.